There are numerous definitions of case studies suggesting that case study is a method, methodology, or a research design. Our working definition asserts that a case study is none of these. Case study can be viewed as a transparadigmatic and transdisciplinary heuristic that involves the careful delineation of the phenomena for which evidence is being collected (event, concept, program, process) (VanWynsberghe and Khan, 2007). As a heuristic device, case study results in the circumscription of the unit of analysis. It does so the researcher's detailed descriptions obtained from immersion in the context of the case, bounding of the case, and frequently engaging in an interplay between the case itself and the unit of analysis. A prototypical case study usually involves revealing an in-depth understanding of a case or a bounded system by thick description and analysis of an event, activity, process, or one or more individuals, that can lead to the discovery or construction of relationships, interpretations, perspectives, and fresh insight. Typically, case studies have at least the following seven properties as suggested by Khan (2007):
Anderson, R., Crabtree, B.F., Steele, D. J., and McDaniel, R.R. (2005). Case study research: The view from complexity science. Qualitative Health; Research, 15(5), 669-685.
Becker, H.S. (1990). Generalizing from case studies. In E. W. Eisner and A. Peshkin (Eds.), Qualitative inquiry in education: The continuing debate (pp. 233-242). New York: Teachers College Press.
Donmoyer, R. (1990). Generalizability and the single case study. In E. W. Eisner, and A. Peshkin (Eds.), Qualitative inquiry in education: The continuing debate (pp.175-200). New York: Teachers College Press.
Eckstein, H. (2000). Case study and theory in political science. In Gomm, R., Hammersley, M., and Foster, P. (Eds.), Case study method: Key issues, key texts (pp. 119-163). London: Sage Publications.
Gomm, R., Hammersley, M., and Foster, P. (2000). Case study method: Key issues, key texts. London: Sage Publications.
Khan, S. (2007). The case in case-based design of educational software: A methodological interrogation. Educational Technology Research and Development.
Lincoln, Y. and Guba, E. (2000). The only generalization is: There is no generalization. In R. Gomm, M. Hammersley, and P. Foster (Eds.), Case study method (pp. 27-44). London: Sage Publications.
McDonald, B. and Walker, R. (1977). Case-study and the social philosophy of educational research. In Hamilton, D., Jenkins, D., King, C., MacDonald, B., and Parlett, M. (Eds.), Beyond the numbers game: A reader in educational evaluation (pp. 181-189). Basingstoke, London: Macmillan.
Merriam, S. B. (1988). Case study research in education: A qualitative approach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Yin, R. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
VanWynsberghe, R. and Khan, S. (2007, in press). Redefining case study. International Journal of Qualitative Methods.
Cross-case analysis examines the commonalities and difference in the events, activities, and processes of case studies. Cross-case analysis is undertaken to extend the investigator's experience beyond the single case by provoking her or his imagination, prompting new questions, seeking new dimensions, measuring alternatives, creating models, and constructing ideal types and utopias (Stretton, 1969; p.158). Another purpose of engaging in cross-case analysis is to enhance researchers' capacity to understand "how" relationships may exist among discrete cases, accumulate knowledge on the original case, refine or develop concepts (Ragin, 1997), and build or test theory further (Eckstein, 2002). Central questions for researchers interested in cross-case analysis tend to involve delineating the combination of factors that may have contributed to the outcome; explaining why one case is different or the same than the others, making sense of puzzling or unique findings, or further articulating the concepts or hypotheses or theories discovered or constructed from a case. Cross-case analysis is a valuable analytic technique for case study researchers because it allows researchers to compare cases from one or more school settings, communities, groups, or programs, thereby providing critical evidence to modify existing programs and policy (Khan and VanWynsberghe, 2007, in press).
Eckstein, H. (2002). Case study and theory in political science. In Gomm, R., Hammersley, M., & Foster, P. (Eds.), Case study method: Key issues, key texts (pp. 119-163). London: Sage Publications.
Ragin, C.C. (1997). Turning the tables: How case-oriented research challenges variable- oriented research. Comparative Social Research, 16, 27-42.
Stretton, H. (1969). The political sciences: General principles of selection in social science and history. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Khan, S. and VanWynsberghe, R. (2007, in press). Cultivating the under-mined: Knowledge mobilization through cross-case analysis. Forum: Qualitative Social Research.
The 4C (Foresee) database has been developed to support cross case analysis of case study research that has been done in different settings or in different contexts. The purpose of engaging a collective activity of cross-case analysis is to enhance our understanding of relationships among discrete research projects .To achieve this using the power of digital instumentation 4C provides its members with a dynamic repository of case studies by utilizing the concept of social tagging. To read more about 4C go here
Tagging is a flexible way of organizing your information (e.g. case studies). Tagging allows you to personally categorize your information rather than relying on predefined categories created by designer of the systems. Tags are descriptive terms that can be assigned to case studies to describe them (eg. media, learning, science, sustainability, risk, style). You can assign as many tags as you like to a case study. Tagging can help you to find related and relevant information similar to coding data. Tagging not only facilitates personal organization of information by tags but also promotes social discovery and sharing of information. This can happen when a different member of the system use the same tags for related information. To learn more about social tagging systems such as 4C, the article on Folksonomy in Wikipedia is recommended.
Researchers often utilize qualitative data analysis software (e.g. Nvivo, HyperResearch) to code their data, construct categories and create themes. The result of analyzing data using CAQDAS are coded material that is organized on an individual's computer. Cross-case analysis, if undertaken, is often done so by hand. A 4C member; however, is able to combine numerous case studies on a topic (e.g., classroom reform) or a field (urban sustainability) that is of direct interest to himself/herself or even other 4C members. The 4C member can utilize our database features to perform cross-case analysis. The 4C database will also gives the 4C members the added benefit of finding other researchers with similar interests. We believe 4C can serve as a foundation to establish dialog among researchers in a community and create a rich environment that facilitates discovering and sharing of case knowledge.
The 4C database can also be favourabley compared to other scholarly research library databases on health, education and public policy (e.g., ERIC, EDUDATA, CiteSeer, Medline, CINAHL, Web of Science, Canadian Education Fulltext, Pro-Quest Digital Dissertations, and The National Library of Canada) or other e-libraries where people post their work (eg. SSRN http://ssrn.com/ ). Existing library databases lack user-driven search terms and do not have effective ways of facilitating the comparison of case studies. Library searches are generally limited to metadata such as keyword, institution, author, subject words, do not adequately support locating meaningful case study research, nor facilitate cross case analyses. Moreover, traditional indexing methods are used to retrieve and analyze the research studies but these tools do not include research in progress, permit uploading and editing of data by the author, or involve researchers in building a community of users based on identifying and recommending research. The 4C database supports works in progress and allows further update of case studies. The 4C database allows researchers to add their perspective or comments to these case studies and share these perspectives with other researchers. The user-driven naming of relationships via tags increases the flexibility and extensibility of 4C databases by providing the researcher with the capacity to link cases using meaningful terms and search case studies by these terms ( Grudin, 1994; Guerrero & Fuller, 2001; Schachter, J, n.d.; Pahlevi & Kitagawa, 2003; Star, 1998; Yee, 2003). Finally, unlike library repositories, 4C allows different individuals to present and recommend selected case studies of interest on a common problem and facilitates collaboration between these individuals.
To the best of our knowledge, there is no currently available tool that supports in composite a collaboration amongst case study researchers or allows them to create communities of interest in which they can contribute case study data, discover and analyze existing case studies, perform cross-case analyses, recommend case studies to one another, and establish dialogue and discussion.
4C members can browse through the 4C case study archive to view cases 4C members have contributed and what they find interesting. To contribute a case study or create a personal library of your favorite case studies, you must first register.
You can find a tutorial on how to use 4C here.
Please send questions, comments, bug reports, etc to "email address goes here". You can also visit the 4C developer log for 4C news and updates.
Thank you for visiting our 4C home page. The site has been fully functional since 2004. 4C was under active development until 2007. Originally, the database was intended to serve as a prototype of what is possible with cross-case analysis. Today, the site remains open for you to visit and consider possible ways to compare your cases. If you are a developer and interested in collaborating on conducting cross-case comparisons and database development, please do not hesitate to let us know through the login page comment form.